Experts recommend government to raise healthcare budget to deal with emergency health situations and pandemic | The Financial Express

Experts recommend government to raise healthcare budget to deal with emergency health situations and pandemic

Given the rising frequency of infectious diseases, the government must invest enough through health budget into genetic research, vaccine and immunization research including epidemiology and biotechnology.

Experts recommend government to raise healthcare budget to deal with emergency health situations and pandemic
The increased spends on the healthcare sector through PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana in the last year budget was also in line with industry expectations.

Experts have recommended that the government should raise the healthcare budget so that India’s public health systems are prepared to deal with emergency health situations such as the ongoing pandemic.

The last year budget increased the spending on healthcare by 137% with allocation to the healthcare sector at Rs 2.23 lakh crore. The increased spends on the healthcare sector through PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana in the last year budget was also in line with industry expectations.

An allocation of Rs. 64, 000 crore, over the 6 years, was done on the PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojna in the last year budget to help boost the healthcare infrastructure. The vaccination program also was a right step in the direction towards healthcare funding with over Rs. 35,000 crore allocation in the last year budget.

According to Dr. Tushar Grover, Medical Director, Vision Eye Centre, New Delhi, “With Omicron spreading now, healthcare has again become one of the biggest focus areas for governments as well as individuals. Given the rising frequency of infectious diseases, the government must invest enough through health budget into genetic research, vaccine and immunization research apart from other avenues of research including epidemiology and biotechnology. Secondly, the private sector whether it is the healthcare providers or the pharma sector must be given policy and economic support in the form of tax rebate, easy loans, utility payment relaxations and exemptions to make India a self-reliant healthcare power while bolstering the health defences of our people. Thirdly, there is a need to bridge the urban-rural and big town-small town gap in terms of availability of health infrastructure, equipment and personnel. Healthcare services, both public and private sectors, need to be strengthened tremendously in rural areas and small towns”

Echoing similar views, Arushi Jain, Executive Director, Stayhappi Pharmacy said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has taught the entire world the importance of having a strong healthcare sector. Our expectations from Budget 2022 centre around allocation of higher spending towards healthcare. Ayushman Bharat is no doubt a highly positive step towards attaining the objective of universal healthcare, however, more budget need to be apportioned for its continued success. On the GST front, the government can consider making healthcare more affordable by taking an immediate step of making a ‘zero rating’ of GST for healthcare services. This will offer two-pronged benefits — keeping the credit chain intact and ensuring that tax is not added to the cost of healthcare services. The pharmaceutical sector is expecting more reduction in duties to bring down the prices of medicines. Currently, GST on drugs is taxed under four categories – nil, 5%, 12% and 18%. While a few life-saving drugs are taxed at nil rates, some are taxed at 5% and the majority fall under the 12% GST slab.”

“We need more collaborative effort between private sector players and members of academia, scientific experts, and governments to strengthen R&D in drug discovery. The necessary incentives should be brought in to develop such partnerships and make them meaningful for the stakeholders. The budget is expected to build on the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes and encourage continued investments in capacity expansion of sensitive APIs, complex excipients, drug intermediates, biopharmaceuticals and medical devices. The higher tax incentives to the private sector towards modernising medical facilities will go a long way in ensuring better healthcare, more investments, and thereby generate more employment,” Jain further added.

As India faces the worst ever health crisis of all times, experts believe that COVID-19 will at least provide the silver lining in increasing the healthcare budget.

Dr. Shuchin Bajaj, Founder & Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals said, “No election has unfortunately been fought on healthcare as an issue in India yet. But now with the coronavirus pandemic, the focus is only and squarely on healthcare. I hope that this will lead to an increase in the healthcare budget and various healthcare provisions so that the expenditure spend on health should go up to 3 percent of the GDP as promised by the government.”

Dr. Shubhang Aggarwal, Director, NHS Hospital, Jalandhar said, “We are expecting that the upcoming budget under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have a special focus on increasing the healthcare expenditure substantially more than 2.5% of GDP and extending the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) for all when the cases of COVID are again on rise.

“The Ayushmann scheme is becoming a success but the rates need to be rationalised so more private hospitals adopt it, even if its under their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. There is an urgent need to improve healthcare funding through subsidised loans and  allocating land for new hospitals especially in tier 2 and tier 3 cities where quality healthcare is still a challenge.The use of innovative technologies should be incentivised so that health protection is available and extended to the disadvantaged,” Dr Aggarwal added.

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First published on: 14-01-2022 at 13:59 IST